Angel of Darkness
Wicked Weed Brewing
Even considering all the love given to Asheville, North Carolina’s Wicked Weed, the brewery is still underrated—there are few beer producers in the country that put out such flavorful and consistent sours. Angel of Darkness is one of its very best, the culmination of the fantastic “Angels” series of wild ales that includes Red Angel (raspberries), Gold Angel (apricots), Black Angel (cherries and bourbon) and White Angel (grapes). Here’s the description, from the brewery:
“Angel of Darkness is a barrel-aged American sour. This ale is blended with 1.5 pounds per gallon of boysenberries, blackberries, raspberries, and cherries and aged in Oloroso sherry casks. After 14 months of aging in these flavor-intense barrels, the beer is blended onto another 1.5 pounds per gallon of these dark fruits in stainless steel tanks for 2 months. A total of 3 tons of fruit and 16 months of maturation later, we give you Angel of Darkness.” tweet
If you’re going to do fruit, crank it to 11, right? But what’s remarkable about Angel of Darkness is that each of the fruits is so distinct: cool blackberry swirls at one point in the aroma, rich sweet cherry at another. Sherry comes up with a swirl, alongside clean leather and stems, while berry skins, very soft vanilla and amber honey dance above. It’s like a dark chocolate coating dark berries; a cordial. The beer’s flavor kicks off with jammy, Cabernet-like fruit juice; a midpalate rise of sweet almond and vanilla fades to a dried-out finish with manageable, pleasant acidity and lingering blackberry jelly, cherry pits and blueberry skins. Given all the sugary fruit character here, the choice of sherry barrels is incredibly smart, and plugs into the new realm of barrel usage: not for bourbony, liquor-driven assault but for drying oak and fruit accents. The wine/beer crossover continues to evolve.
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
Speaking of underrated beers, have you tried a Bam Biere recently? First brewed in 2006, the funkified quasi-saison still elicits balance and complexity many of today’s most sought-after wild ales only dream of. To wit: Bright, zippy, lemon and lime notes zing between underripe apricot and nectarine in the nose, supported by a bed of limestone and dry hay. On the tongue, soft wheat and straw infused with subtle barnyard funk tickle the buds before peach and dried lemon peel settle in. Lively bubbles excite the liquid and accentuate the bright citrus notes before a superdry—but not bracing—finish. Wait hours in line for the new, hot mixed-fermentation brews all you want; Bam Biere will always be there, ready to wow you.
Private Stock Ale
Alesmith Brewing Co.
Old Ale is not a sexy style—I mean, “old” is right there in the name—but when done well can be as elegant as any of them. Private Stock is the rebranded, revamped edition of Alesmith Olde Ale, which was first produced in 2005 and was released just once every five years, and under its new moniker the beer will now be released annually. We like that plan, because the 11% ale has flavors that make it a prime candidate for aging and tasting against fresh batches. It’s fantastic without age, however: Caramel-drizzled bread crusts, dark cherries, maple syrup and spiced rum cake mingle in the aroma while rich malty notes of caramel, toffee, currants and rum raisin bread rule the flavor. It’s sweet, but not viscous or sticky, and the potent alcohol content—only noticeable as a gentle chest warmth—balances the sugars on the back end. Drink it in front of a fireplace.
It’s an indisputable fact that Oregonians are huge fans of Pinot Noir. It’s also inarguable that they love beer. Mix those two loves and you get Oregon Native, a collaboration between Portland, Oregon’s Upright Brewing and Patton Valley Vineyard, about 20 miles to Beervana’s west. The beer combines the winery’s estate pinot noir grapes with Upright’s whole fruit cask fermentation method and is fermented with indigenous wine yeasts inside oak wine casks. The result would certainly please any oenophile: It smells like straight-up oak and Pinot, with dollops of cherry amaretto, tart raspberry and seedy/earthy pomace mixed in. Reduced raspberry syrup, strawberry doughnut filling and pear meld on the tongue before the finish which is all wine: grape juice and fresh oak and skins.
Red Brick Brewing Co.
In beer-trading parlance, a whale is a bottle that’s highly sought-after but incredibly difficult to get your hands on. This imperial stout from Atlanta isn’t quite as rare as most Moby Dicks, but it should be on want lists nonetheless. Above a mocha-hued head, smoky hickory aromas connect with molasses, espresso roast and chunky peanut butter. That overlap of peanuts and coffee is something we could smell for days. Spicy gingersnap cookies arise as the beer warms, and it seems as if we could sit here another 20 minutes picking out new fragrances. The first sip is a shock, heavy with black patent malt and burnt notes, but once the tongue acclimates, there’s a soft cola note that gathers dark fruits before a finish that flashes with toasted oak and cracked pepper. The body is rich but not too thick—like whole milk—and the exhale is bittersweet chocolate and crunchy coffee bean. Believe the hype.